Hello, 2013. Thanks for Visiting.

Ode to 2013

2013 is a year that taught
me copious lessons. It brought
hope and some trepidation,
faith and some affirmation.
A bounty of choices demanded attention,
giving my simple life greater dimension.
An unheard of act of risk taking
led to an act of decision making.
I cried, I cheered, and I laughed
(What the hell is a mosquito craft?
This rhyming dictionary is weird.
)
I frequently disappeared,
sinking into my protective shell
dealing with change and doing it well.
Today I celebrate the good
in 2013, just like I said I would.

__________________________

At the beginning of the year last year, I made a “Resolution to be Successful.” My goal was to concentrate on the great things that happened throughout the year. I had never done it before– usually ending the year with a “thank goodness it is over” feeling. I was tired of living my life, waiting for the year to end so I can start afresh. It was time to realize that every day is a fresh day and I needed to acknowledge and celebrate that fact. I made a jar and I filled the jar with wonderful things so I could write about them at the end of the year. I hope you enjoy my adventures.

Family

I am thankful every gosh darn day for my family. Without them, I would not have as much joy in my life. They keep me from staying in the darkness when I’m depressed, and still love me when I spend extra time there. Here are some highlights.

  • We have a little raised garden in our back yard. It has become a family project. Every season, we clean it out, hand till it, and plant it. Pretty much every season, we end up with very few veggies– they get creature-eaten or frost-bitten or die in the hot, hot sun. Yet we continue to do it. There is something about sticking your hands in the earth that reminds you how connected you are to everything around you.
  • The girl figured out how to tie her shoes. It may seem like a little thing, but she was determined to never learn how– at least not from me. Thank goodness Hubs has the patience of a saint or she’d still be in Velcro shoes. Now if we could get her to keep them tied…
  • We were able to send the girl to Camp Invention. It is a week-long critical thinking/problem-solving day camp. She learned so much, including how to work with others to solve real-life problems. It was fabulous listening to her stories about what she learned. Her excitement was palpable.
  • We took two camping trips. I am not very fond of camping, but I like to be outside with my friends and family. The first trip was with my brother, niece, and nephew. I had so much fun during the day. It was fabulous being with them in a different setting than the living room. I want to do it again with them before my brother moves on to his fellowship and my niece and nephew go to college (or wherever– no pressure, guys). The second time was with my BFF, Jen. It was freezing and relaxing and wonderful (for camping, anyway). We did decide that next time we’d camp in a motel. It’s so much better that way.
  • We actually had some weather this year. I love it when we have weather in the desert. After one seriously rainy day, the girl and I played in the puddles until she had mud up to her eyeballs. It was so glorious letting loose and getting dirty. I think my heart grew three sizes that day.

There are so many more, but I know that it’s important to keep posts short so people read to the end. 🙂 Maybe I’ll do a part deux.

Educational

Both my husband and I are pursuing degrees– his is a B.S. and mine is an M.A. I’m so proud of us for managing school, work, and family without wanting to hit each other in the shin. With a car. I celebrate the following:

  • After a bazillion years of study, I am so close to the end, I can see it. I submitted my application for graduation. This does not mean that I am done, but it does mean that, if I take the last FOUR classes that are required, I can graduate at the end of the summer term. FOUR CLASSES! I really need to be done because I’ve got such a serious case of senioritis (mastersitis?) that it makes my eyes burn.
  • I had to take a graduate research class. It was horrible and felt pointless to me. Focusing on the positive: I had one of my favorite professors again, I earned an A, and it is another class down. Only FOUR more to go!
  • I took the summer off. It was fabulous spending the time with my family. Even though it put me a little behind, I needed it. I still only have FOUR more classes until I’m done.
  • My degree program is online, so I miss the face-to-face interaction that I enjoyed with I was getting my B.A. This last semester, I had a colleague taking the same classes. It was wonderful! I had someone to bounce ideas off of for the first time in a bazillion years. I wish he was going to take my final FOUR classes with me, but he isn’t. Still– I had someone to kvetch with… er, share ideas with.

In case you didn’t notice, I have only FOUR classes left until I’m done. Not that I’m excited or anything. Not me. Not at all.

Professional

This is the aspect of my life that changed the most. This is where I took a leap and let the Universe catch me. I don’t generally do that because of my anxiety. Here are some of the positives:

  • I finally said no more to the job that was disintegrating my being. I was turning into a person who I didn’t enjoy being and it affected every aspect of my life.
  • I woke up in the morning and didn’t have a debilitating panic attack thinking about going to work. After I decided it was time for a change, I began to repair myself. This was the first sign that it was working.
  • I got a new job. Even though I felt beaten down and almost destroyed, I was able to keep my head straight during interviews. Even though I felt like a fraud, I was able to tell potential employers how wonderful I was. It worked. If you want to read about it, I wrote a couple of posts about it: Part One and Part Two.
  • I made a decision about my professional goals. The public education system no longer suits me. I can’t do what they ask me to and still live with myself. I finally decided to leave the public school system. After 13 years, I am taking a break from it. I may come back, I may not. It just depends on where life takes me. Once again, when I made that decision, another layer of anxiety and fear disappeared. Once again, I have no fear that my decision is the wrong one. I have no clue what the future may bring and that doesn’t scare me. Weird for someone who’s live her life in fear that she’ll make the wrong decision and destroy the world.
  • Hubs attends one of Embry Riddle’s satellite campuses. He is good friends with the director there. They are in desperate need of English teachers. Hubs has worked his magic and there is a great possibility that I will be teaching some classes for them when I’ve completed my M.A. (FOUR more classes!). This is a wonderful opportunity and I hope it comes to fruition. I’m trying not to want it so much.

I haven’t felt so sure of myself professionally in a very long time. I am thankful for the year that passed and am definitely looking forward to the future possibilities.

Other Awesome Stuff

Not everything fits into lovely categories, so here is the potpourri of great things that happened this year that don’t fit anywhere else.

  • I got a new, used car. It is the car that I’ve always wanted. It has a sun roof and, because I’m spoiled, brand new speakers and a kick-ass radio. It also only started with 30,000 miles. Because it’s a Toyota, I will get to enjoy it for many, many miles to come.
  • I’m getting crafty up in the hizzouse. I started crocheting again, something that relaxes me and makes me feel productive. Hubs got me a sewing machine for Christmas and I’ve already made myself a purse. Creating is such a wonderful feeling and I am glad that I’m doing it again.
  • I was brave enough to put my writing out there. When I won NaNoWriMo in 2012, I had a mostly, sort-of finished manuscript. I’ve been sitting on it, fearful of letting it go into the world. I decided to share it. There are so many plot holes and loose ends that I need to tie together. I wasn’t able to do so objectively. Hopefully it’ll get worked out. Either that or my readers will tell me that it’s too convoluted in its current state and will need to be disemboweled and reanimated in another configuration. I’m comfortable with either possibility.
  • One of my students graduated this year. This young lady has been in my life since she was a sixth grader. I love her like she was my daughter. I’m so proud of who she has become. She honored me so much when she asked me to escort her to senior night basketball game. Her mother and I proudly stood next to her before her final game of her senior year. I felt truly blessed that I meant so much to her that she asked me to be there. Teachers don’t always see how they affect their students’ lives. Chelley made sure that I knew.

There are so many other things, but brevity is the soul of wit (so they say).

The Girl’s Celebration

The girl was so excited to participate in this project. For the first seven days. Because she was six. I told her I’d post everything that she wrote down. Here it is:

  • “I have school.”

She’s so awesome.

Final Thoughts

This was a great exercise for me. I am thankful for my blogger friend Danielle for making the commitment to do this with me. If it had not been for her, I am pretty sure I would have stopped writing the good things down about the same time that the girl lost interest. I’ve decided that I am going to do it again in 2014. I think it is part of the reason why I’ve been able to make the positive changes in my life. It helped me live in the moment.

__________________________

Resolve to be successful

Advertisements

Job Search, Part Two

If you’re just joining me, read Job Search, Part 1 to get caught up. =)

The day I found out about not getting the first job, our car died (there’s a post coming on this one– someday). I was sitting there, lacking confidence, a little depressed, and alone. Hubs was sitting on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck, so I couldn’t talk to him about it. I reached out to my Faceb0ok friends. They were very sympathetic and supportive, as usual, and I felt better. My friend Danielle, who writes ProfMomEsq, commented:

Words of Encouragement

She validated my need to feel the feels that I was feeling. Someday, I hope I’ll be able to validate myself. Until then, I have the best friends EVAH! Instead of faking strength, I let myself be a badass and cried. Even though the job wasn’t right for me, the rejection hurt.

At least I had another interview on the upcoming Monday. It was with a school district that is about a 30 minute drive for me. I just want to point out that, for the last seven years, my commute has been around ten minutes each way. Adding 40 minutes to my drive time each day would mean taking 40 minutes away from all of the other things I have to do. I would have to wriggle my world even more than I do already. Still. It was an interview, and I needed a job.

I was not feeling as confident for this interview as I was for the first one. In fact, I was mopey as hell. My brain was on a slide, whimpering its way to the bottom. Stupid brain.

I didn’t know where the school was, so I went to the trusty Internet and printed out a map. I decided to leave an hour before the interview, just to be safe. I figured I would find the place and then stop and get some lunch. The interview was at noon, and I was too anxious to eat before I left. Thank goodness for that extra time.

My handy-dandy google map was not so handy-dandy. It took me ten miles out of my way and landed me in the middle of nowhere on a dead end street with nothing but fields on either side. I had no idea where I was and 30 minutes to get to my interview.

PANIC MODE!

The panic was made even worse by the fact that I no longer had a smart phone (there’s a post if you want to know why). I couldn’t just type the address into my navigator and have the merry voice direct me to my destination. I had to call my husband for help. For those of you who don’t know me personally, this is a hard thing for me to do. I’m independent and get frustrated when I can’t solve problems like this on my own. Thankfully, my husband never brings this up when I ask for his help; he just helps me.

I love that man.

So there I was, hungry, down, anxious, and needy. I told my husband that I was just going to call them and cancel, that I wouldn’t get the job, that I probably wouldn’t take it if they offered it to me, blah blah blah. Because he has been through this before, he calmed me down and talked me out of the corner that I was moping in.

Did I mention that I love that man??

Armed with the correct directions and a pep-talk, I sallied forth. Well, more like I limped forth. I arrived at my destination with ten minutes to spare.

I was interviewed by three people– the principal and the English department co-chairs. They each had a packet with questions and were each recording my answers. It was scripted, and they were very formal in their approach. They would look at me when they asked me questions and when I answered them. Their faces betrayed no emotions. It was strange. I know why they did it– protocols need to be followed in order to be effective– but I am used to getting SOME sort of reaction.

I seemed to be the only one reacting. I felt my hands getting flappier and flappier. At one point, I couldn’t tell if I was trying to take flight or if I was performing the biggest jazz hands ever. Thing is, I couldn’t tell if they liked my answers or not. I had no feedback. I was used to feedback. 30 freshmen in a classroom give you constant feedback whether you want it or not.

Caution: Jazz Hands

Their formality was a good thing in retrospect. Even though it made me uncomfortable, it made me focus on what I was saying instead of how they were reacting to what I said. They asked me questions that I’d never been asked before. The one that sticks out most in my head was about my late work policy.

We interrupt this post for ramblings about education. We’ll return to the regularly scheduled post after this message.

I believe that all work should be turned in on time. There are deadlines for a reason. However, there has to be flexibility, especially when working with children. Even though I teach teenagers, they are still learning and make mistakes. They don’t manage time wisely because they haven’t had practice. Hell, I know grown people who still can’t manage their time wisely. I give them leeway when they need it.

That’s not to say that I let them turn assignments in any time they want. Instead, I teach them to advocate for themselves. If they know they aren’t going to turn something in on time, it’s their responsibility to meet with me and work out a plan. I try to give them skills that will help them when they enter the work world.

It also depends on other factors. If a student abuses this system, late work won’t be accepted. If it is a long term assignment and they ask for a last minute extension, I generally say no. My main goal is to help them understand the process of learning, not to see how well they plan their time. They will get enough of that when they get into the big, scary world and have to buy their own toilet paper.

Now back to the regularly scheduled post.

The whole time I was giving my answer, I was cringing inwardly. What if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear? Then, I decided I didn’t care. I was going to do it anyway, and they might as know in advance. That way there weren’t any surprises if I did get the job.

At the end of the interview, they thanked me for my time and sent me on my way. I walked out to my car, turned it on, and, like the aforementioned badass that I am, I cried a bit. I was emotionally drained and had no idea how the interview went. None. I was pretty sure that I hadn’t tanked it, but, beyond that, I knew nothing. I went home and tried not to analyze it.

The next day, they called. I almost didn’t answer it. My anxiety spiked, a mixture of excitement and fear. At the interview, they said the position was probably ninth grade English and yearbook. I really didn’t want to teach freshmen again– that alone made me want to ignore my jaunty ringtone. I answered.

“We were hoping that you would take the job we’re offering. Someone with your experience and expertise would be a tremendous benefit to our school. We think you’d fit in perfectly here,” the principal said. When I accepted the job, he stated that they were excited to start working with me.

Wow. Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve heard those words? Some people who are still working in my old district have taken this opportunity in the story to tell me that I can’t believe everything that I hear and that he was probably saying it so that I would take the job and that I’d learn how he REALLY was when I started working for him. At first I was upset. Then I was sad. How sad is it that people feel like they can’t trust anyone in power?

I am choosing to believe that his words were genuine, and that he is truly excited to work with me. I am not going to let past experiences taint my current opportunities.

Guess what I’m teaching?? If you guessed freshmen, you’d be wrong. I get to teach eleventh grade English and Academic Decathlon. Juniors are one of the nicest groups to teach. First, most of them have passes the state testing that allows them to graduate. They are still trying to keep their GPAs up and (generally) haven’t checked out. AcDec is a group of students who WANT to participate in academic contests. To top it off, the school where I am going to teach has a 90% graduation rate AND a 95% attendance rate. My last school didn’t have those numbers. Things are looking up. I might fall back in love with my calling. I might want to be a teacher again.

Thank you, Universe, for catching and guiding me.

Smart Phone Free: Day One

Today is my first day without my smart phone.

I can’t believe it. I actually gave it up. It has been bothering me for years. I was so disconnected from everything because I had the whole of the interwebz at my fingertips. I would sit on the couch, playing games, and checking my social media statuses. Last time I had a phone upgrade, I was so tempted to get a simple phone, but I chickened out and got another smart phone.

This time I didn’t give in to my addiction.

My hubby graciously let me use his upgrade to get a more simple phone. He was completely content to use my smart phone instead of getting a new one. I think he was really happy to get me back.

So, here’s my phone.

Isn't it shiny?

Isn’t it shiny?

I know it isn’t much to look at right now, BUT there are many colorful cases that are so inexpensive, I could buy a different one for every day of the week and only spend a little more than the black, boring case I bought for my smart phone. Imma be stylin’!

Get this! It has T9 texting! Inorite?!?!? I remember when I could do that with my eyes closed. It is already coming back to me. One thing I still have to practice is answering it. I always hang up on the person who is calling. I’ll get it though.

Another thing that is awesome: I have battery life again. I used it all day and still had the five bars of the battery. It really does wonders to not be on facebook/twitter all day. I am more content now than I have been in a very long time. I don’t have the urges to check and see what is going on with the my social media.

I’ve had time to write. Rather, I’ve recaptured the time I spent avoiding life. Writing is work if you want to do it well. My smart phone gave me an excuse to not do it. Maybe excuse isn’t the correct word. The obsessive/perfectionist part of my brain seized on it as a way to protect me from failing at writing. Yay, mixed up brain chemicals!

The only issue that I have had so far is a feeling of confusion in the morning. I would wake up, sit on the couch, and check my social media. Sometimes I would play a game or surf the web. It was my morning ritual. Instead of having coffee, I used my smart phone. I am sure that it will pass as I create new rituals.

My heart is happy with my choice. I feel like a burden has been lifted and I can get back to being me again.

2013: Resolve to be Successful

2013NYEbanner

Thank you, Danielle, for the lovely introduction to our “Resolve to be Successful” project. Your generosity in letting me adapt your words to fit my blog made my day. Any mistakes you find are mine. =)

————————————————————————————

2012 was a rough year – a bitter presidential election that divided the nation; financial calamities as the housing and job markets continued their rollercoaster rides; continued war and unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Africa and China; senseless losses of beautiful lives to the twin tragedies of gun violence and mental illness; an angry and petulant Mother Nature, unleashing Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Bopha; the Costa Concordia accident. There was so much negativity. We hope to leave negativity behind as we look to 2013 for a fresh start.

Much like Danielle (ProfMomEsq), I don’t do New Year resolutions. I already put too much pressure on myself to be perfect. Making resolutions that I won’t follow through on usually triggers a grand old downward spiral. Since I try my darndest to avoid those, I resolved a long time ago to make no more resolutions.

This year is different. Danielle ran across an idea on Facebook that was just too good. She shared it  and I decided that I’d do it too.  Then we thought, what if everybody joined us? The thought was so tickling that it brought us to the idea to not only do the project, but to blog the results. There is something about being held “accountable” (for lack of a better word) to someone else. Knowing that someone else is expecting me to find the positive will make it much easier.

The concept is simple. Keep a jar some place handy. When a good thing happens in your life, write it down on a strip of paper, and put the paper in the jar. At the end of the year, take out all the papers and read them to remind yourself of the wonderful year you had.

Danielle and I have our jars ready. Here’s her jar:

ProfMomEsq's Jar of Success

Here is mine:

Elizabeth's Awesome Jar of Success

By year’s end, our jars will be filled with scraps of paper describing moments from 2013 truly worth remembering. On December 31, 2013, we will open our jars, read the scraps of paper and post the contents on our respective blogs. Then, we’ll get to spend the rest of our day reading through all the blogs of those who join us.

Yes, that’s right! We want you to post, too! Resolve To Be Successful by clicking the button below. Follow the directions to join the blog hop, then get yourself a “Jar of Success.” Any old jar will do; you can decorate it or not, make it big or keep it small, fill it yourself or have family and friends join you; you can even go high-tech and keep your “jar” in your iThingy. Just make sure your “jar” is always handy so you don’t forget any of your moments of joy, love, happiness and – above all – success.

Feel free to snag either of the badges to post on your blog to show the blogosphere that you are joining us. Please write a post about what you are doing and try to get as many people involved in the project. The more people we have participating, the more positivity  we will be spreading across the world. Maybe if we all focus on the good things, 2013 will be one of the best years ever.

2013NYEbutton
If you link up with us, post your jar’s contents before midnight on December 31, 2013 and spend a blissful day celebrating all the wonderful milestones that paved our way to 2014. And – HEY! – if you link up, you already have something to put in your jar: you wrote your last blog post for 2013 way ahead of schedule.

We look forward to seeing you and sharing in your success! Happy New Year!

Sorry I’ve been gone but my days are just too long

Dearest blog readers,

I know I’ve not been posting lately, but I have a really good reason this time. School has started. Usually August is a time when I am completely engrossed in getting my classroom ready, lesson planning, and jumping through all of the other hoops that teachers need to do at the beginning of the school year.

I am tired.

I miss writing on my blog, but most of my creative energy is being consumed by the need to get the school year going. Hopefully I’ll get it under control soon.

Anyhoo… Please don’t forget about me while I get everything situated. I’ll be back as soon as I can with entertaining posts about life and running a classroom full of ninth graders!

Oh, I’ll leave you with some words to ponder:

Wise words from Ser George Carlin

Year 13 Begins

The next few weeks are going to be very hectic for me. I return to work on August 1 and students arrive on August 8. I will be working on getting my classroom set up and planning my first quarter. One of the challenges that I am (very) excited to face is the implementation of 1:1 technology. For those of you who aren’t knowledgeable in educationese, it means that all of my students will have netbooks and the use of textbooks will be limited. The transition will be fairly easy for me because I don’t generally use the textbook anyway and I had a classroom set of netbooks in my classroom next year. I still have to plan and plan and plan (it makes my brain happy). I’ve decided to take my teaching a step further and make my class inquiry based. It is a big step for me because I give up some of the control that I am used to. Thing is, the kids are fully engaged when you give them a choice.

Another challenge that I face is the fact that I will have to work with new people this school year. Because of teacher movement, half of freshman level teachers are brand new to the school. Some are even brand new to teaching. I love that we have fresh ideas, but I am also sad because our group last year worked well together. They knew me and my quirks. They didn’t get upset when I would hide in my room because I needed alone time. Plus, I get terribly shy and anxious when working with new people. I’m either silent or have diarrhea of the mouth and say the stupidest things! Time to retrain everyone (myself included).

One of the aspects of teaching that I love is mentoring new teachers. I like offering them support and helping them make it through the first few years. Teaching is hard and if you don’t have support, you’ll never make it. True words, those. I’ve already met one of our brand new baby teachers (term of endearment, btw). My first impression of him was that he was T.A.L.L. I have no idea how tall he is, but I had to twist my neck to talk to him. He’s an Algebra teacher, but I won’t hold it against him. (J/K. I love my mathmagician friends. They astound me.) It was exciting to hear his ideas for next year. He is so fresh and so hopeful. I want to help him keep some of that as the year progresses.

I went into work yesterday to get the keys to my classroom. Usually I don’t go into work this far in advance. However, I have a new classroom.

I know! First a new principal then new teachers and now a new classroom. Doesn’t anyone understand my brain?!?!

I have 12 years of teacher stuff. At the end of May, I had to sort through scads and scads of resources to determine whether or not I needed them anymore. I ended up getting rid of/recycling 8 big black garbage bags of things I hadn’t used in a long time. I didn’t realize how cathartic it would be to get rid of so much. Even though I pared down my resources, I still had to pack them up to be moved to my new room.

Here it is, in its natural state:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before I can even think about planning or the other hundreds of things teachers do at the beginning of the new year, I have to unpack. Things just don’t work unless I’ve got my little nest set up. The room is so much bigger than my previous one AND it has more storage. You know what the best feeling is, though?

I don’t have enough stuff to fill up the storage space! I don’t feel completely overwhelmed with things. Maybe this will help me in the next school year. I’ll have space to breathe.

This year is looking up already!

Oh, don’t worry, I’ll post my classroom when it is finished. I know ya’ll were skeered that I’d forget to show you the beauty of it. =)